After 8 years of experimentation, Orville and Wilbur Wright were finally able to pilot the first powered airplane in 1903. While others relied primarily on machine power to keep the aircraft afloat, the Wright brothers, utilized the wind and the structure of the craft to achieve flight.
As is often the case with engineering their efforts were influenced by nature. Their understanding of how birds took flight set them apart from their predecessors who valued brute power as the key to flight. Over time, they made many design improvements based on experimentation with flight. In fact, a year up to the famous first flight, the brothers made 700 to 1,000 glides (on a motor-less aircraft), of which the longest glides lasted 26 seconds.
Delighted yet determined, the brothers were ready to add the element of power. Several engine manufacturers failed to meet their need for a sufficient lightweight motor so the brothers turned to their own mechanic only six weeks to the big flight. The first plane was named the Flyer and cost less than $1,000 to construct. With the wingspan of 12.3 meters and 12 horsepower engine weighing 82 kg, the Flyer was ready.
The Wright brothers chose Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for their experiments because of its known strong winds
. On the morning of December 17th, the wind was blowing at 27 mph, harder than the brothers would have liked. Nevertheless, they made 4 successful flights, the longest lasting 59 seconds and traveling 852 feet in the air.